Travelling upon the South Walian uplands can inspire... stimulate introspective analysis of what it really means to live in 21st Century Britain... or provide context for a pre-existing world view. Guess it is a personal journey which is nigh on impossible to relate to others with the necessary emphasis without sounding trite. Photography has been my chosen medium to make the attempt, for better or worse. However I wanted to share the Mam C's short verse, something which, in my opinion, transcends the perhaps not so 'all seeing' view of the optical lens:
For My Brother
The souls of the shoes
That have slipped here before
The cut of the water
Through hill side and more
The March of the winds
Up the blind alleys veil
The history that's shouting
"Do you understand now?"
Straight, solitary but never alone
The heaviest of platforms
That hide the blue bone
A continuum in the Crows
Defiant merry go round
Please understand this
It's our common ground.
Further to Tiompan's fieldnotes, Canmore gives the following regarding the origin of the name of this cairn - which, translated, means 'Cairn of Kenneth', or 'Kenneth's Cairn'.....
'A very large barrow called Carn Chainichin, The Cairn of Kenneth. Chalmers (1887) links this tradition with 'Kenneth IV, King of Scotland' who was slain in battle in 1003 AD at Moigh-a-bhaird, now corrupted into Monivaird. Anderson gives the text of various Chronicles. It is clear that Chalmers statement is incorrect. No Kenneth IV is listed as King of Scotland and in fact Kenneth III reigned from AD 997-1005. There are inconsistencies in the accounts but Chalmers "Kenneth IV" is apparently Giric (called erroneously Grim) son of Kenneth III who was killed in Monzievaird between 997 and 1005. Anderson suggests that he ruled over some district under his father Kenneth. He was buried in Iona.
Statistical Account (OSA) 1793; A O Anderson 1922'
The highest summit in Wales is generally known as Snowdon, no doubt since it is often snow-clad during the winter months. In Welsh, however, it is known as Yr Wyddfa, which translates as 'the tomb'.... I've also heard it referred to as Yr Wyddfa Fawr, 'the great tomb', or 'burial place'. Legend has it that the summit cairn, at 3,560ft, marked the final resting place of Rhita Fawr, a war-like giant finally put in his place by none other than Arthur (yes, him again). Must have been a pretty big cairn to ostensibly cover a giant, one would have thought? More's the pity - nay, calamity - therefore, that it has been thoroughly decimated, not only by countless visitors to the summit, but by the construction of the railway and summit cafe, thus leaving Carnedd Llewleyn's monument as surely the highest surviving of it's type in Wales.
According to The Gwynedd Archaeological Trust (PRN13943) Yr Wyddfa's cairn is:
'A presumable Bronze Age funerary cairn located on the summit of the highest mountain in Wales. The original cairn has been altered beyond recognition by generations of hill walkers, mountaineers and sightseers. A trig point marks the highest point.'
What might have been, eh? It's also interesting to note that the great eastern face of Yr Wyddfa is known as Clogwyn y Garnedd ('Crag of the Cairn') and overlooks Glaslyn, source of the Afon Glaslyn. Enough said, perhaps?
Cwm Llwch, the great glacial valley below and to the north west of Pen-y-Fan is rich with folklore regarding the Tylwyth Teg, 'the little people'.
Below is an extract regarding the valley's circular lake taken from 'The Welsh Fairy Book', W Jenkyn Thomas (1907):
'..In very ancient times there was a door in a rock hard by, which opened once in each year — on May Day — and disclosed a passage leading to a small island in the centre of the lake. This island was, however, invisible to those who stood upon the shore. Those who ventured down the secret passage on May Day were most graciously received by the fairies inhabiting the island, whose beauty was only equalled by their courtesy to their guests. They entertained them with delicious fruits and exquisite music. and disclosed to them many events of the future. They laid down one condition only, and that was that none of the produce of the island was to be carried away, because the island was sacred...'
More of the legend here:
Behind the mist
That shifts and stirs, to lap itself again
Round the enduring patience of the crag
A sheep, somewhere amid old drifts of snow
Wails out its wet and solitary grief
And gets no answer but the moss's drip....
(E H Young - Ysgolion Duon)
If those stones could speak - 'Do not wish too loud.
They can, they do, they will. No voice is lost.
(Edwin Morgan, Ring of Brodgar - Sonnets from Scotland 1984)
Gone, gone are thy gates, Dinas Bran on the height!
Thy warders are blood-crows and ravens, I trow:
Now no one will wend from the field of the fight
To the fortress on high, save the raven and crow
Roger Cyffyn (17th Century, arr Borrow)
Hi, I'm GLADMAN... aka Citizen Cairn'd. Or if you prefer, Robert. Now aside from (apparently) having an illustrious historical forebear in W E Gladstone, I've a passion for attempting to understand the more prosaic lives of the prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the tangible remains they left behind in order to ask the questions... 'why here?... and why such commitment? I've a particular liking for those upland piles of stone with the appropriately monumental views. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' - however nebulous - with this land of ours, a reference point for those of us struggling to make sense of this so called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.
Suffice to say, then, that mine is not an exercise in dryly cataloguing sites for the benefit of future generations - as much as I might try (honest) I haven't yet been able to embrace altruism to that extent - but rather an attempt to try and reconcile why I am so incredibly moved by these constructions of stone and/or earth representing a time when everything was, by all accounts, literally a matter of life and death. Yeah, just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... an illusion, perhaps, but symptomatic of the consciousness that apparently sets us apart as a species... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. We may only be able to hypothesise as to the nature of human interaction undertaken. But clearly it mattered. A lot.
I make no claims for my contributions except to state that I've done my best to relate what I've seen. Yeah, enjoying the moment always takes precedent. After all, life is not a rehearsal, a spectator sport. The majority of my earlier images are (variable quality) scans of archive prints taken back in the days when photography was, well, 'photography', the others idiosyncratic digital attempts to capture the impossible.... 'mood', a sense of vibe ... with minimal refuge sought in that false post production manipulation that has, in my opinion, so blighted the medium. I'd like to think some of them convey something of what I've felt. Likewise my opinions are those of an enthusiastic 'self taught' amateur. Hence if you like what you see, why thank you! But you owe it to yourself - and your children (if so blessed - or not, as the case may be!) - to go see for yourself, make up your own mind, relate what you think, share what you experienced... yeah, do your own thing, so helping to keep the facists, communists, authoritarians, misogynists and the dark shadow of organised religion from the door. As the great, flawed Ian Dury once said, 'Be inspired, be inspiring, be magnificent!' ... and thus the circle turns in on itself to go round again, as upon the great kerb stones at Bru na Boinne....
However... let's not get carried away. Steady now. In a society where computer generated fantasy is all too prevalent, where many people seem - to me - unable to even venture outside without plugging into the 'matrix' machine, please be aware that reaching some of the more remote upland sites in the British Isles can be potentially dangerous - even life threatening - for the unprepared... or arrogant. Treat the landscape and weather with the respect they deserve; take map, compass, waterproofs (etc) and hopefully you won't go too far wrong. Help turn that limited wannabe squaddie route marching mentality on its head by taking as long as you can, let being part of this planet soak in. Hey, if it all seems a bit daunting at first why not pop a question in the Forum? That's why Mr Cope puts up the readies to run TMA.... Thank you Julian.
So cheers... to Mr Cope for being his inspirational, confrontational (who said that?) self, showing that field archaeology can be FUN! - hey, who'd have thought it? ...to my sister (the wondrous Mam Cymru) for using her female 'macro' vision to help me see the detail throughout an ongoing re-exploration of the South Walian uplands, albeit upon dodgy ankles, knees etc... to my own mam for insisting 'young men should have adventures' (that was a while back, now!).... and my Dad for unwittingly inspiring a profound love of high places. Oh, and to Aubrey Burl for those pioneering guides BC.... 'Before Cope'.
For what it's worth some of my other inspirational people are:
Charles Darwin (for his humanity... amongst, er, 'other things'... although let's not forget Wallace for forcing the great man's hand);
And then, in no particular order:
George Orwell (peerless essayist with the ability to change his mind); Michael Collins (things are not often black and white...); Winston Churchill (for all his faults); Martin L. Gore (favourite songwriter... from just up the road!); Big Steve Chamberlain (sorely missed); Mr Beethoven; Giorgio Moroder & his analogue sequencers; Richard Dawkins (much maligned - and asks for it - yet helping to carry the torch of reason during an age of devolutionary religious resurgence); The Pogues (for my North Walian soundtrack); Sophie Scholl (words fail me); W A Mozart (ditto); Manic Street Preachers (the true spirit of South Wales, not the bleedin' misogamist male voice choirs); Alan Pearlman.. for the sublime ARP Odyssey; Nigel Kennedy; Pat Jennings; Will Shakespeare; Kraftwerk; Harry Hill (there's only one way to find out!); Claudia Brucken (proving Germans DO have passion); the (Allied) generation of WW2 for making this possible; Marc Almond; Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; John Foxx; Christopher Hitchens; Mulder and Scully; John Le Mesurier ('do you think that's wise, sir?'... the coolest man) .... and anyone who has ever asked 'Why?' - the true legacy of punk. Thank you Mr Lydon.
Oh, last but not least, Gaelic beauty Karen Matheson... the Scottish trips wouldn't have been the same without that voice. 'The call is unspoken, never unheard'.
George Orwell - '...during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'....
Martin L. Gore - 'Like a pawn on the eternal board; Who's never quite sure what he's moved toward; I walk blindly on....'
Truman Capote - 'Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour'.
W E Gladstone - 'Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic'.
John Lydon - 'It is a reward to be chastised by the ignorant'.
Christopher Hitchens - 'Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.'
Sarah Cracknell - 'I walk the side streets home; even when I'm on my own...'
Winston Churchill - 'KBO'.